Piles of shame, by definition, are shameful. But while untouched games in cellophane taunt and beckon , there's a special circle of torment reserved for the games we started, but didn't finish. Games we enjoyed, maybe even loved, but abandoned before completion.
It's too late now! We can't go back. Too much time has passed... things have changed, we have changed. The world has moved on yet we — a couple of hours shy of resolution — have to live with the fact that we have left an incredible game unfinished. We've tarnished a holistic experience and we're bad bad people.
I may be one of the worst offenders. With too many games and too little time, I start almost every major release yet seldom finish them. Among these hundreds, however, are a handful of games that resonate — games I am genuinely ashamed I gave up on. These are the top five.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
The Year: 2003 Where I Quit: The stupid triforce quest where you have to scour the seas for some ungodly reason.
Why I Quit I was living in Japan when Wind Waker was released and it was torture. In every video game store I visited oodles of Wind Wakers stared back at me. Incomprehensible, written in a language I couldn't understand. I had a GameCube, but I couldn't buy Wind Waker. If ever a series required that you actually understand dialogue, or instructions, or the written word in general, it was Zelda.
When it was finally released in Europe, I made a quick call to my brother, who had already started playing it.
"I'll send you a copy over," he said, enthusiastically. "I'm halfway through it and it's the best Zelda ever!"
Bizarrely my brother's enthusiasm began to wane in subsequent phone calls. I didn't understand why and he wouldn't explain. "Just keep playing," he would say. So I did.
The first half of Wind Waker is an incredible voyage of discovery, literally. The art style is timeless, when all is said and done it may be the best looking video game of all time. The early dungeon design, too, is peerless. But once your momentum is steam rolling and your bracing yourself for three or four more incredible dungeon experiences, the game does a bait and switch. You are no longer heading into the unknown, exploring terrifying structures, marvelling at holistic design. You are engaging in a glorified fetch quest. WHAT?
I persevered for a while, but it was all too much. I had to walk away.
Why I Can Never Go Back Well, I actually did go back. Twice in fact. I played the entire game through another two times, with the full intention of trying to complete the game. I did so because most of my friends were quick to tell me that Wind Waker's conclusion was worth the effort. But by that time I just couldn't muster the enthusiasm. Hopefully the new HD re-release for the Wii U will convince me to give it one final go.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
The Year: 2009 Where I Quit: At some random section in the game's final third
Why I Quit The reason I quit Batman: Arkham Asylum — arguably the game of 2011, and one of the greatest super hero games ever made — is stupid. Pathologically stupid. On a number of levels.
I got stuck.
Not only did I get stuck, I got stubborn. And I decided to stick to one of the painfully arbritary rules I devised for myself when I was ten years old and playing A Link to the Past on the SNES: no guidebooks allowed.
So I was stuck. I couldn't find a way forward. My pride wouldn't allow myself to head to GameFAQs like a normal person and find the solution, so I spent hours walking in circles until I could take no more and I bailed out.
Why I Can Never Go Back A year later I tried to finish off Batman: Arkham Asylum, but it was nigh on impossible. Jumping two thirds into the game, completely blind and minus all the context and understanding of where the hell I was meant to be going and why, was almost impossible. Even if I did use GameFAQs (and I did) all the joy of following Arkham Asylum's strictly designed world was sucked from the bone. I would have had to start the game from scratch and that seemed like too much of a time investment.
Shadow of the Colossus
The Year: 2005 Where I Quit: The tenth colossus (I think)
Why I Quit I really have no idea. Well, I have some idea. It was mostly because I rented the game from Blockbuster in Scotland and I only had a couple of days to play through it.
I raced through the first four or five colossus, entranced by the universe. I loved the care put into the simple things — the sound of flipping through the menu, the atmosphere. The way everything moved. I really fell in love with Shadow of the Colossus, but I specifically remember one colossus giving me a little bit of trouble — I think it was the Sand Tiger, the tenth colossus.
Whereas earlier colossus seemed to telegraph their weak points, the game slowly but surely began to disguise them, making each new boss increasingly more difficult to 'solve' and defeat. Time was ticking and eventually I had to trudge back to Blockbuster, game in hand, and admit defeat.
Why I Can Never Go Back Again, I did go back. I picked up the HD re-release of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. I played up until the Sea Dragon until new releases distracted me. I never went back.
The Year: 2012 Where I Quit: At roughly 26 cubes collected
Why I quit Enjoyment of Fez has three very specific stages. The first begins with a dumb sense of wonder and empowerment. The process of understanding the mechanics of Fez, the act of simply manipulating the world and solving puzzles is a genuinely uplifting experience. I fell in love with the game almost instantly.
The second stage is the feeling of being lost and the dread that feeling inspires. All of a sudden Fez feels a little bit claustrophobic and scary. You have no idea where you are and no idea how to get back. The map system is convoluted and terrifying. It's so far from user friendly that it almost appears as though Phil Fish wanted to give players the feeling of being stranded in a strange universe with no means of escape.
The third level of enjoyment is mastery of that universe. The ultimate understanding of the game and how it works, how the worlds are intersected, how to navigate the world freely.
I quit just as I was heading towards that third level of mastery and I still don't know why.
I think I might have given up because the game was becoming a little too difficult. And by that I mean that collecting the cubes wasn't as easy as it was to begin with, and the game became more about staring at the map, trying to figure out where I should head next as opposed to gaily skipping through the world without a care in the world. That was the stage I enjoyed the most — the first stage.
Why I Can Never Go Back I'm lost. And so very scared and alone.
The Year: 2003 Where I Quit: The Omega Pirate boss battle
Why I Quit I left this one until last because it's the one I'm most ashamed of. Metroid Prime is probably my favourite game of the last ten years, but for some reason I never actually finished it. That sounds crazy, but it's true.
I can't really explain why I quit. The Omega Pirate boss battle is difficult, but not as difficult (apparently) as the boss battles that come afterwards. For some reason I attempted to kill the Omega Pirate roughly five times before giving up and never returning. It may have been something to do with the sparse set of save points, it may have been simple weakness on my part, but for some strange reason I gave up at that point and never returned.
I am so ashamed.
More than any other game, Metroid Prime represents for me the pain and regret of leaving an incredible game unfinished. Not only did I do myself the disservice of not exploring new areas, or enjoying everything the game had to offer, I robbed myself of the holistic experience an incredible video game can provide. I left one of my favourite games of all time unfinished, and that makes me feel a little sad.
Why I Can Never Go Back I have to go back.